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Passion and employee engagement…

EngagementThis is not my typical post about finance, math, Excel or data but something else. There are two terms that I see a lot of in various articles or websites and I am sick of them for different reasons.

The first is “I am passionate about…” or “my passion is to…”. The word passion or passionate is used quite a lot and it sounds like a whole generation has been raised on the “pursue your passion” mantra. While I agree that it makes sense to work at something you would enjoy since you have to spend at least 8 hours a day working, I also kind of fall in the camp that just doing your passion is not your ticket to nirvana.

I’m passionate about West Coast swing dancing but there is no way I will be able to make a living at it for 2 reasons: 1) I’m just not that great at it – never was able to progress into the intermediate level, and 2) I would not like the travel lifestyle that you would have to pursue. It looks glamorous on the outside but I would think that after a while it would get old. As a matter of fact, it appears that most of the dancers, even those who have progressed to professional level, hold a second job, usually real estate. It’s really hard to make a living just as a West Coast Swing dancer. And, that’s all you do. Okay, so maybe I’m not that passionate and that is why dancing remains a hobby.

Instead, according to Cal Newport, the author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, you work at something that you think you would get good at, you work really hard at it and after much practice, you get good at it, and then the enjoyment or passion kicks in. Talent and passion tend to go hand in hand: you enjoy what you are talented at because it gives you a good feeling. Of course, it does depend on the kind of talent: if you are great at wiggling your ears but you have no passion for it, it’s understandable.

Also, there has to be a market for your talent.

Scott Adams espouses the same theory in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

So, I’m sick of the passion mantra because it has been so overused.

The other terminology that I’m tired of is employee engagement. There has been a lot of articles lately bemoaning the awful state of employee engagement. Well, duh!!! After laying off employees during the height of the Great Recession, and then going for years without hiring people, of course people are disengaged. It is no surprise and if you are surprised, I kind of have to wonder about your mental capacity. And then to make matters worse, companies make profits and they still lay off people (American Express and eBay, for example). If you profess that you are responding to shareholder demands, then your commitments are to the shareholders and not to your customers, to your community, or to your employees. If you want employee engagement or commitment, you have to be committed back. Actions speak louder than words and employees know that if shareholder push hard enough, you will lay off people again. So they are not engaged or committed.

So I get irritated when employers complain that the millennials are not loyal and don’t stick around. Why should they be loyal when employers have proven their loyalties are only to the shareholders?

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